The Buffalo Beauts 2019-20 NWHL roster is now officially at 20 players. With the team’s regular season debut just days away, the league officially announced the signings of three more players on Oct. 1, 2019. Joining in the defense of “Fort Beaut” this season are forward Erin Gehen and defenders Ana Orzechowski and Richelle Skarbowski.
“Erin, Ana and Richelle came to our training camp this month and earned their way on the Beauts’ roster with their skill, dedication and commitment to team-first play,” said Buffalo GM Mandy Cronin in the press release. “The coaches and I are confident they will all be important contributors this season.”
All three players participated in the Beauts’ Sept. 28 exhibition game against Brock University. The team opens up the NWHL regular season on the road in Danbury against the Connecticut Whale on Oct. 5.
Gehen is the finest scorer that the Buffalo State College’s women’s hockey program has ever seen. She holds school records for goals, assists, points, shorthanded goals and games played. Gehen suited up for the Bengals from the 2014-15 season through 2017-18. In her four seasons of NCAA play, she never recorded less than 18 points in a season. She was the Bengals leading point-getter in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
When Gehen graduated following the 2017-18 season, she was just shy of 100 career points. Her final numbers for the Bengals ended up being 54 goals, 41 assists and 95 career points. Gehen averaged better than a point per game in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The benefit that the Beauts will primarily reap from Gehen is the variety of goals that she is able to generate. Of the 54 tallies she had for the Bengals, 11 came on the power play, seven were shorthanded, another seven were game-winners and three were empty-netters. Though diminutive at 5-foot-2, Gehen is very strong on the puck and difficult to push aside.
Now with the Beauts, Gehen will rejoin her former Buff State teammate Emma Ruggiero. The two player together for three seasons beginning in 2015-16.
Orzechowski is a very sturdy player. Though not overly tall at 5-foot-6, she has size to her, and does not hesitate to physically force opposing shooters aside. Orzechowski is a native of Tonawanda, New York, and attended Kenmore East High School.
With her NCAA career beginning in 2015-16, she would end up playing four seasons for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Engineers. Utilized primarily as a stay-at-home defender, Orzechowski would end up playing 105 career games for the Engineers. Despite being a physical player, she kept herself in check and only received eight penalty infractions in her entire career.
Orzechowski also has some experience playing in Ontario’s Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) – a league often regarded as the highest level of junior women’s ice hockey in the province. There she played for the Burlington Barracudas, and was teammates with fellow Beauts Becki Bowering and Meg Delay.
If the exhibition game against the Brock Badgers was any indication of how Orzechowski’s first professional season will go, she is bound to become a Buffalo fan favorite. She put more than one opposing player onto her backside during the game. Every team needs a thumper, and Orzechowski fits that role for the Beauts’ back end.
Orzechowski’s defense partner throughout Beauts training camp has most often been fellow newcomer Richelle Skarbowski. The 5-foot-10 Orchard Park native is the tallest blueliner on the team this season, and one of its tallest players overall.
Skarbowski began her NCAA career with two seasons at the University of New England. There she played 43 games for the Nor’easters. Skarbowski racked up 64 PIMs in that time, while also tallying a goal and seven assists.
She would finish out the final two seasons of her collegiate career a bit closer to home. Skarbowki would join SUNY Cortland in 2015-16, and would appear in 41 games as a Red Dragon.
Her final NCAA totals between the two schools ended up being two goals and 13 assists for 15 totals points in 84 games. Skarbowski’s career penalty minute totals came out to 112.
Though she has great size and a bit of mean-streak at times, she can also shoot. One thing noticed about Skarbowski during training camp is that she really steps into her shot from the point. It is powerful enough that opposing attackers were hesitant and held up a bit from pursuing so close.
As of Oct. 1, here is how the Beauts’ roster currently looks:
Goaltender: Mariah Fujimagari, Kelsey Neumann.
Defender: Meg Delay, Marie-Jo Pelletier, Ashley Birdsall (forward-defender) Lenka Čurmová, Ana Orzechowski, Richelle Skarbowski.
Forward: Corinne Buie, Brooke Stacey, Kim Brown, Becki Bowering, Cassidy MacPherson, Iveta Klimášová, Emma Ruggiero, Maddie Norton, Kandice Sheriff, Taylor Accursi, Sara Bustad (forward-defender), Erin Gehen.
Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
My colleague Dan Rice will keep THW readers up-to-date on Metropolitan and Connecticut’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Buffalo and Boston. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.